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Friday, June 22, 2012

Meditation on a Roadkill Squirrel

I ran over a squirrel today

It took me totally by surprise
all I saw was a brief movement
of my right eye

I think I saw the tail of
the squirrel as it ran headlong
and the path of my car

The sensation of the right tire
rolling over something was
that I experienced.

I was still so taken aback by this
squirrel's behavior that I slowed down
the rear view mirror

I wanted to see if there were any
little brown bodies on the road behind me
squirrel was on drugs


Blueberry Picking

July, 2011

Every Summer for the last seven years our family has trekked off to East Texas in search of fresh blueberries for picking.  We have found the best blueberries at Echo Springs Blueberry Farm in Brownsboro.  Located between Athens and Tyler, it is about a 2 hour drive from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Here is a picture of the pickings from 2011:
2011 was the first time I went with the rest of the family.  I had never been blueberry picking before, so I really was looking forward to the day.  It was a lot of fun, only we went in July, in the midst of the 100+ days of no rain in our part of the state.  Unfortunately most of the berries had been picked, and the heat made it a bit less comfortable than we wanted it to be.  The picture below of Bernard summarizes the day: hot and sweaty, with an empty bucket.

The folks at Echo Springs recommended that we come back the following year in June when the berries are at their biggest and juiciest.
Carolyn took some of the smaller children into the store when they got too hot.  Here she is with our youngest daughter ZelieLouisa.  Two of the beautiful women in my life. 
In this picture, Maximilian gets into the frame along with Bernard's forehead.  I just love to take pictures of Carolyn; she is so gorgeous!
We can't recall how many pounds of blueberries we picked last year.  Regardless, the ones we brought home were used for muffins and other delights from the Donahue kitchen.  We froze them in small plastic bags so we could pull out as much as we needed. 

June, 2012 

This year we took their advice and came in June.  We arrived around 2 p.m. rather than early in the morning as I had hoped we would.  I was on vacation, and so I was enjoying the rare day when I could just wake up whenever I wanted.  Our late arrival actually was providential, because a torrential rainstorm hit the farm that morning.  So when we arrived, the temperature was in the 70's and the clouds remained overhead for the whole time we were there.  Occasionally raindrops fell on us, and our clothes also got wet from reaching in to pick berries off of the wet bushes.  A cool breeze made it even more comfortable.  I don't think we could have had better weather for picking blueberries.

Here is Augustine, busy picking berries.  I have to say that it would be easier to get a picture of Sasquatch or the Yeti than to get some of my children to pose for a picture.  So if you get to wondering where the other children are, trust me.  All but Dominick(the oldest) were with us, and if they don't appear below it is because I could not get a good picture of them.
Thankfully Marcellinus, or 'Marc' as we commonly call him, was not camera shy.  Here he demonstrates his award-winning technique for picking berries. 
"Any questions?"
Benedict was diligently picking away and could not look up from his work. 

Jacinta not only looked at the camera; here she actually smiled for me. 

Bernadette showed her technique for picking as well.  With so many berries on the trees, we found the best way to pick them was to grab a cluster; the ripe fruit would separate easily and either fall into the hand or the bucket underneath.  The unripe fruit would resist the slight pressure needed, and would remain behind for someone else to pick at a later date.

Here I catch Cornelius and Maximilian at work.  Max is closer to me; Cornelius is on the other side of the line of bushes.  That black thing in the foreground is the dripline which runs along the bottom of each row.  I don't think I could have hidden my children's faces any better if I tried to.

Bernard is too young to be camera shy.  He actually did some picking this year, and then knocked over his bucket for reasons best known only to him.  He had a great time, especially when he took on a supervisory role and toured the grounds to check on his siblings and parents.  That is Carolyn's foot and dress.

ZeleiLouisa is not camera shy either.  Here she poses before getting back to picking blueberries. 

It may not be obvious from the picture from 2011, but the whole farm was greener and more lush than it was the year before.  That made for really good blueberry picking.
Here is a picture of either Maximilian, or Sasquatch, or a chupacabra.  You decide.  Something tells me that I doubt any of those mythical beasts would be collecting berries in a bucket.  More likely they would be storing them internally.

We didn't realize that the farm closed at 4:30 p.m., so we had to rush at the end.  Part of the experience of blueberry picking is to sample all of the jellies, soups, salsa, dips, and baked goods which are available in the gift shop/store.

So, in a little over two hours, we collected 70 pounds of blueberries!  That is 10 buckets full by 13 people - where the two youngest were 6 and 3 years old.  There were a lot of reasons why we were able to pick so much.  One is that there were a lot more berries on the bushes, and they were arranged together in clumps rather than individually, so each time we reached into the tree we got more than one berry.  Another reason is that the weather cooperated.  I know I would not have just stood there picking berries for as long as I did if it were hotter and more humid.  Most of all, though, is that our children are growing up, and have learned how to pick berries efficiently.  Carolyn pointed this out to me as we worked until 3 in the morning to put all the berries in the freezer.  The berries we picked had a lot fewer stems, leaves, unripe berries, and other waste which usually accompanies the picking of berries. 

I was very proud of the work the children did, and I look forward to a year full of muffins, pancakes, and whatever else can be complemented by the addition of blueberries.

By the way, this is almost what 70 pounds of blueberries look like.  They were still packing them when I took this picture.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Ten Commandments for How to be a Writer"

by John C. Wright

I used to have a link to this article on my iPhone. 

One day, the link went ‘cold,’ with only an apology from the folks at the ‘Dappled Things’ website in its place.  I searched in vain for the article.  This evening, while talking to one of our children, I realized that most of the points I was trying to make were modeled after this talk.  It seemed that I should really try once again to find this article for my children’s sake as well as for my own edification.  It didn't take long to find when I used my desktop Apple rather than my iPhone. 

I once read that the best thing one could do for a budding writer is to buy him a thesaurus, and then shoot him in the head, because that would be the last time he would ever be happy.  I suffer with delusions that I could be a good writer if I only put in enough time and practice.  Thanks be to God, I have a large family and a good job which keeps me too busy to pursue this full time.  So when I do get a chance to write - like now - it is late at night and I am more inclined to sleep.  Still, I submit this article for those who aspire to write, or for those who are finding it difficult to find a job and need a little encouragement. 

I also am putting it on my blog so I don’t lose it again.....
First, the credits.  The author is described as 

“a retired attorney, newspaperman and newspaper editor, who was only once on the lam and forced to hide from the police who did not admire his newspaper. He presently works (successfully) as a writer in Virginia, where he lives in fairy-talelike happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their three children: Orville, Wilbur, and Just Wright.”

“Only once on the lam.”  Why only once?  Should there have been other times?  Hmmmmm.

The link to this article can be found at this link.

So here goes......

John C. Wright's patented and guaranteed Ten Commandments for How to be a Writer.
1. In order to be a writer, you must write.

2. In order to write, you must use proper spelling, punctuation, grammar; or, if you violate these rules, the violation must be deliberate, to create an artistic effect. Avoid politically correct jargon at all costs. Do not use ugly constructions like "he or she"; it will date your work, and the cool people will laugh at you.

3. In order to be a writer, you must sell what you write. No manuscript should spend a single night on your desk; the same day you get a rejection, put the manuscript in the mail to the next editor. Let the manuscripts spend their nights on the editor's desk.

4. In order to sell what you write, read the editor's guidelines for his magazine or publishing house and follow them. These guidelines are available in a reference book called Writer's Market. Get the reference book for the current year. If the guidelines say double-spaced white paper single sided, and no samurai vampire stories, do not send him "Lightning Swords of the Nosferatu of Kyoto" printed on blood-red paper, single-spaced, double sided. Failure to follow the guidelines shows you are a dude, a tenderfoot, a punk, a novice, not someone meant to be treated with professional courtesy. Your story is your child: no mother would send her child out to look for a job without fixing his tie and shining his shoes.

5. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope with proper postage affixed, if you want the manuscript back.

6. You will receive on average ONE HUNDRED rejection slips before you make your first sale. This is an average. This means that if someone, say, Lester del Rey, makes his first sale on his first attempt without getting a rejection, that someone else, say, Ray Bradbury, will get two hundred rejection slips.

7. If your manuscript is good or bad, send out your manuscript again. Genius does not count. Only persistence counts. The world will not recognize your genius until after you are dead. But the world can recognize your persistence now.

8. If the manuscript is good, send out your manuscript again. The editor who rejected it last month or last year may have different needs or a different budget this month or this year.

9. If the manuscript is bad, send out your manuscript again. The worst thing you ever wrote will someday, somehow, be some schoolboy's favorite story ever. Your readers are your employers. Respect and fear them. Do not approach this work with pride or selfishness or any of the other emotions to which men of fragile artistic spirits are inclined. It is a profession. Act professionally.

10. Selling writing means your manuscripts go out, and money comes back in. Money always goes toward the writer. Money never goes away from the writer. This means you do not hire a manuscript doctor, you do not pay a reading fee, you do not enter a contest which charges an entry fee. Those are scams. Agents are paid on commission, paid when and only when they sell your wares, whereupon the money comes from the publisher and goes toward you; You do not pay the agent a retainer.
To sum up: To be a writer, you write. You write by writing grammatically correct English, not Politically Correct Newspeak. You sell what you write. You sell what you write by following the editor's submission guidelines. You include a self-addressed stamped envelope. You continue to submit stories whether they are good, bad or mediocre. You treat it like a job.
Do not wait to be inspired. So-called inspiration consists of sitting down at scheduled times for scheduled amounts of time and actually doing the work of writing. It is the same inspiration used by a cobbler to make a shoe, or a carpenter to make a chair.
Writing is not accomplished by inspiration. It is accomplished by not making excuses to not accomplish it.
Let me add one more rule to my list of ten rules. This is the Eleventh Commandment, the unwritten rule:

11. When you get a rejection slip, be thankful.

Yes, you heard me. Not only are you NOT to take it personally, you are to have thanks and gratitude in your heart for getting rejected.

Rejection slips come in three grades: (1) impersonal form letters (2) form letters with specific reasons for rejection (3) personal notes from the editor explaining the rejection.

You are to be thankful for getting an impersonal form letter because it means one more rejection slip of the one hundred or two hundred you must collect before you make your first sale has been checked off. This means that your manuscript, which has been sitting on his desk for seven months, is now free to be submitted to another editor, perhaps even to that one special editor which God or Fate or Blind Chance or the Seldon Plan of History (take your pick) had intended from the first to be the place where your manuscript would find its home. It means a fresh chance, another turn of the Wheel of Fortune.

You are to be thankful for getting form letters with specific rejection reasons because you can use this information to improve the story or improve your sales pitch, and because there is no other place in the universe you can get this information.

You are to be thankful for personal notes from the editor explaining the rejection, because this means you have graduated to the rank of being a real writer, even if you have yet to sell a single word of your art, because editors do not take the time to explain themselves to rank amateurs. It means you are good enough to make the sale, and you just so happen not to have made it this time. It is encouragement.

The main reason why you are to be thankful and grateful for rejection slips rather than bitter and insulted is that professionals are thankful. Above all, you are thankful Fate has allowed you even a slender chance at entering a profession made of wonder. You get to write down daydreams and people pay you money for it. A few blows to the ego are a small price to pay, and are probably good for improving your character anyway.

Does anyone know what the Seldon Plan of History is?  Has anyone else out there read the book which describes it?  All you geeks out there are nodding your heads.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Fountain Pen Review: Eine Andere Deutsche Füller

"Another German Fountain Pen"

Well here we go again.  I thought I would throw out this brief review of another German fountain pen for two reasons.  One is for completeness; I want to review all of the fountain pens I have just to share my opinion.  The other is to prove a point to myself: that I shall get a lot more hits on the blog by people looking for fountain pens.

This second reason was confirmed by the 'Sitemeter' widget I have on the blog.  After I published my review of the Pelikan fountain pen, the number of visits to the page went through the roof.  For me, 'through the roof' means more than 40 visits per day. 

Perhaps, someone could help me with the title of this blog post.  Füller is feminine, so I would expect the article Eine - with the 'e' on the end - to indicate that.  But then what does one do with each adjective to describe the subject?  In this case, I figured I would tag an 'e' onto each adjective as well.  I would like to improve my German, especially because several of the Noisykids have expressed an interest in learning it.

Today's pen comes to us from Rotring.

 Rotring literally means 'red ring,' which is immediately apparent as you look at the pen below.  For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, Rotring apparently does not ship to the United States anymore.  It is probably President George W. Bush's fault.  Regardless, this has really cranked up the price for these pens on sites such as eBay.  They are worth it, though.  They are solid pens that have a nice heft to them, and they write nicely.  I am using 'they' correctly here, because along with the fountain pen, I have a geek pen and a ballpoint pen made by Rotring, and they all are a pleasure to use.  A geek pen is one of those pens with multiple ink colors, pencil, and a PDA stylus.  Nowadays I just use the ink sections in the geek pen, and I haven't seen the ballpoint pen in a long time.  I suspect it is gone for good.

Back to the fountain pen.  It has the characteristic red ring, and a hexagonal-shaped body.  The cap fits well on the pen, but I have had to adjust it in the past to make it tighter.  One day I dropped it, and the cap refused to stay on for a while afterward.  My pen has a medium nib, and uses a convertor to slurp up ink.  I don't recall if there were any cartridges for this pen, but I don't care any more. 

The grip area is smooth and rounded, and feels really nice when signing legal documents or non-triplicate medical records.  Some of the inks I have used in it tend to make it spotty, and require me to swing the pen around like a maniac to get it to write sometimes.  I have found the Parker 'Quink' ink works best with this pen and allows me to maintain some dignity at the workplace.

Problems with this pen, as I mentioned before, are that the cap can slip off occasionally.  For an anesthesiologist, it doesn't matter if my scrubs get a big blotch of ink on them.  Heck, most scrub pants are used as a notepad in a pinch, so ink stains are no big deal.  If you have to wear a nice shirt or jacket all day, though, you may want to keep this in mind.

I am sure the folks at the Fountain Pen Hospital could fix the cap better than I could.

The other problems is the pen is kind of an orphan here in the States, so spare parts and repairs may be pricey.  On the other hand, one might recoup the price of the pen if you sold it to a collector some day.

While not my favorite pen, the Rotring fountain pen is a great pen with a great feel and smooth writing with my favorite ink.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Book Review: The United States Coast Guard and National Defense

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I know several young men and women who are Officers in the Coast Guard, and that was my main reason for requesting this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I hoped to get a feel for the history and adventure that has to be a part of this vital but overlooked component of our national defense. I anticipated a book full of history, fleshed out with biographies and information that would increase my admiration for the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. Instead, I got a book which read as if it were constructed from a collection of after-action reports.

For the reader who is looking for detailed information about the Coast Guard, this book would be an excellent reference. The footnotes and bibliography are very thorough. This book will one day be an excellent reference for a future historian who needs to find out ‘which ship was where when.’

I don’t like writing negative reviews, but this book was not written in a style to inspire any young man or woman considering a career in the Coast Guard.

Sorry.  I just review the books.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Movie Review: For Greater Glory

There may be spoilers in this review.  You have been warned....

For Greater Glory is a movie about the Cristero movement which arose in response to the Mexican government's crackdown on the Catholic Church.  This occurred in the 1920's, and gave the Church many martyrs to the Faith, such as Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro.

This movie features several characters who were involved in the struggle against repression of the Catholic Church.  It seems providential that this movie shows up at the same time our own government is mandating that the Catholic Church participate in things which are against our core beliefs.  I also found a line from the movie amusing - you can see it in the trailer above - where the General tells Jose that 'I never had a son, but if I did, I would want him to be just like you.' 

That line reminded me of the quote from our fearless leader:

"If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin."

Which reminded me of this picture and quote:

But back to the movie.  The movie is 'R' rated because of a lot, a WHOLE LOT of violence.  Granted, a lot of people get shot and stabbed in the movie, but at least one doesn't see intestines and other viscera go splat all over the place.  We are spared a close look at some of the more gruesome and disturbing things which happen in the movie.

We went to the movie after instructing two of our oldest children that we would leave if there were any nude scenes.  Thankfully there were not any scenes, but we spent the whole movie anticipating them.  There was one very brief scene where we see some young women smuggling bullets by placing them in cloth wrapped around their middles, but the camera did not spend a long time lingering on this subject.  Compared to a couple of movies from the 1950's, where a lot of women dance around in their undergarments (think dance scenes in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Oklahoma), For Greater Glory is rather tame.

There is another scene where a married couple are in bed - modestly dressed - and kiss each other.  That is as far as the scene goes, without implying anything followed that rather chaste kiss.

One of the best scenes in the movie had to be where a priest refuses to give Holy Communion to a character who had been away from the Church for years.  The priest insisted that he must go to Confession first, even after the man points out that God already knows his sin.  It was great to see proper respect for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in a movie. 

There were times I had to remind myself that I was just watching a movie.  Even so, I found it very hard to watch a child suffer and die.  For me, such scenes bring to mind things which have happened in my own life.

The actors were all good, with no stereotype 'saintly' Cristeros or nasty government folks.  I was kind of surprised that Andy Garcia has gotten oooooold.  I recall he was in the movie 'Stand and Deliver' twenty five years ago.

I would watch this movie again, and I would recommend it for older teenagers and up.  This is not a movie for the little children, as the body count is enormously high and there are many tense moments throughout.  Like so many other movies, I left the theater wanting to learn more about the history of the Cristero movement.

One last thought:  if you stay to watch all of the credits, pay close attention to one which mentions tobacco products.  I kidded with Carolyn that they should have added that 'no cigar was wasted in the making of this movie.'

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

I am An Amateur Catholic Blogger!

Amateur Catholic B-Team Member